John A. Gamon https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8269-7723
Date of this Version
Glob Change Biol. 2023;00:1–3.
This article is a Commentary on Schuldt et al., https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.16697
The link between biodiversity and ecosystem function has long been a subject of intense interest and debate among biologists, going back to the time of Charles Darwin, whose ideas on species interactions presaged subsequent discussions of biodiversity and ecosystem function (Peterson et al., 1998). Since then, many considerations of community diversity have centered on the importance of species or functional diversity for maintaining system resilience in the face of disturbance, analogous to the way that interwoven threads maintain the function and integrity of fabric. While our language, concepts, and methods have evolved over time, a key question regarding diversity and function persists today: What exactly is the link between biodiversity and ecosystem function? With ongoing human activity altering many parts of the planet, an additional pressing question emerges: How can we best manage ecosystems to enhance both biodiversity and biological carbon sequestration? In recent years, a growing number of studies have considered the co-benefits of biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Many of these have been experimental studies of grasslands where annual production is relatively easy to assess, and most of these studies have emphasized primary producers and above-ground yield (e.g., Fraser et al., 2015; Tilman, 1999). Similarly, most forest and cropland studies have focused on primary production with an emphasis on the relatively accessible above-ground component, without clearly addressing overall system biodiversity. While notable exceptions exist (e.g., Fraser et al., 2015), many of these biodiversity and ecosystem function studies report a positive association between biodiversity and biomass yield (e.g., Tilman, 1999), sometimes leading to the general conclusion that biodiversity begets productivity, or vice versa.